Do Job Adverts Use Gender Biased Language? Survey Says Yes!

Photo Credits - Sergey Zolkin via Unsplash

Gender-based disparities continue to become a topic of discourse, particularly shown in the global gender gap index where the United Kingdom ranked 22nd in 2022. In the workplace setting, Instantprint has conducted a survey on gender bias in job adverts. Within their analysis, they found that job adverts in the UK are coded with gender-biased language.

Gender bias is known as the tendency of having a preference for one gender over another. A lot of the time, it is an unconscious or implicit act of attributing stereotypes or personalities to a person or group of people. Biases impact how one perceives and engages with other people. When it comes to employment, often gender bias refers to the preferential treatment towards men in the workplace.   

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Findings of Studies

The survey by Instantprint on gender bias was done by collecting job advert samples which were then processed through a gender decoder tool. The data then show if the adverts are either more masculine-coded or feminine-coded which were then likely to attract a particular gender.

Examples of feminine-coded language found included:

  • Gentle
  • Sensitive
  • Honest

Examples of masculine-coded language found included:

  • Active
  • Decisive
  • Driven

Based on their analysis they found that only four out of 91 jobs they studied were gender-neutral. Further, 77% of adverts favour feminine-coded language and only 17 were masculine-coded. Overall, job adverts were found to use more female-oriented language.

Harvard University conducted a similar study, in which they found that job adverts that are masculine-coded are less appealing to women. They also found that there was no significant impact feminine wording has on both male- and female-dominated occupations and students.

Through this research, it was established that job adverts for roles that are stereotypically masculine tend to have masculine wording as well – which then deters women from applying as it causes them to think men dominate the workplace and that they would not belong. They highlighted in the summary that gender-biased language in job adverts may help explain the gender gap in male-dominated sectors.

Impacts of Gender Bias in the Workplace

These gender-based biases are known to have significant effects on the workplace and employment. Having gender biases has resulted in the creation of the “glass ceiling” effect. The glass ceiling effect is a metaphor for the abstract phenomena experienced by people of minority groups and women in the workplace that hinder them from achieving elevated success.

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On top of that, knowing that these biases are even apparent in job adverts, also hinders potential candidates from the role – further expanding the glass ceiling beyond existing employees. In many male-dominated fields, women experience that “invisible” barrier preventing them to climb to leadership or C-Suite positions.

Knowing this, recruiters should take initiative to identify gender biases in their recruiting process. Identifying gender-biased language is an ideal first step for more inclusive and gender-neutral recruitment. Being conscious of the language used within adverts is necessary to attract great candidates from a diverse range of backgrounds.  


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